There are times when I sit down to get some work done and feel overwhelmed by “all the things”.  Am I the only one? I’m pretty sure…no, I am not. As moms and business owners the list of things just keeps getting bigger. Time management is essential to success in both areas.  This anxiety or the sense of being overwhelmed comes to us for one of two reasons: 1) We are working under the illusion that we can get all things done; that our list will be totally complete or 2) We’ve done a poor job of managing our time. More likely some combination of the two.

Can You Really Get Everything Done?

Perhaps the main reason most of us feel overwhelmed about what we need to do is the illusion that we can get all the things done.  This is just a lie. A lie sold by the media that tells us we should be able to do everything–especially as moms. The standards set for us, as moms, are impossibly high and when those are compounded with the never ending list of a business owner it’s enough to make you want to sit in the corner and cry.

The reality is that as moms and business owners there are constant demands on our time: meetings, marketing plans, emails, customer care, filling orders, managing employees–the list goes on, and that’s just work. We haven’t even started talking about the mom to-do list. My point is two-fold:

1) there will never be enough time to get everything done and that is OK—say this to yourself everyday.

2) balance between work, family/friends, and self is what you should be focusing on when managing your time.

Now that we have a mutual understanding that not everything can or should get done everyday, let me outline a strategy to help you improve your time management and make the most out of your day.

5 Steps to Better Time Management

Step 1: Figure out how you use your time now.

While this task may be tedious it is worth it’s weight in gold.  Most of us think we are being productive because we are doing, doing, doing.  BUT, when you step back and actually look at what you’re doing, you might see that the things you’re doing are not actually contributing to your success.

So, how do you take an inventory of your activities?  You can use this Time Management Tracker.  Print it double sided—your morning time will be on the front and the afternoon/evening time will be on the back. Simply jot a quick note of what you did for each time block throughout the day.

Step 2: Define what is important to you. 

As you are tracking your time this week, also take some time to think really hard about what is important to you in each area of your life.  This means you are going to have to do some soul searching and set some goals.  Get clear on what is important to you in your life. What do you value? Then, write some goals that will help you progress in each area of life. Make sure your goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Sensitive.  The big thing about setting a SMART goal is that before you start writing them, you have to really know what is important to you.

Step 3: Set up a schedule for yourself.

After you look over how you’ve been using your time and then consider what is important to you and what your goals are, make a schedule for yourself.  In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown states that many of us see the word choice as a thing (“I have a choice to make”) but really the things are our options.  A choice is an action.  He states “It is not just something we have but something we do.” You need to explore all the options about how to use your time and then choose what you will do.  After all, McKeown also wisely states that if we don’t choose how to use our time someone else will.  By making your own schedule you set boundaries for yourself and give yourself the time to meet the goals you’ve set in all areas.  A schedule is imperative to your success.

Step 4: Decide what you will do.

Make yourself a list of things that need to get done each day to get you closer to your goals.  What will you use each time block for daily?  Next week I will be diving into this step more deeply. I will give you some list making strategies and tools as I discuss setting daily goals.

Step 5: Eat That Frog!

Okay…so you don’t actually have to eat a frog, but I love this analogy that Brian Tracy uses throughout his book Eat That Frog! Basically it goes like this: everyday you need to look over your list and decide what the one thing (or may two) that will have the most positive impact toward meeting your goals.  That is the thing you need to do first.  He asserts that “the frog” is often the thing that we want to do the least, but will ultimately lead to better results, making it the most important.

I’ve read several things that state you should take care of all the little things first to make you feel productive and I tend to disagree. Why? Well..I think that we busy ourselves with lots of little tasks that make it seem like we really are busy. Really those things are not producing the results we are looking for and ultimately are not leading us closer to our goals.  Essentially, work smarter not harder.

Effective time management and taking an active role in choosing what you will do with each minute and hour is imperative to the success of your business.  This week my challenge to you is to really think before you do.  Take a careful look at how you’re spending your time and think about how you could use it better.  And…don’t be afraid to Eat That Frog!

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